Tuesday, August 3, 2010


It's late on a muggy Tuesday evening. No not muggy: Muggy is too negative a word for the soft warm air that bathes me as I sit here in Toronto writing. It's a word used by people who find this summer heat too aggressive and hard to live in. Winter cold is so chilling, and lowering to the spirits, at least by late February, that it seems unwise and in fact deeply ungrateful to complain about life-giving summer heat. Ah here she goes preaching again! you'll say.

Let's start again and say that it's a warm tropical-feeling evening here in Toronto!

Had another lovely time in Grey County last weekend, celebrating two seventy-fifth birthdays, one of a bookseller friend, and the other, on the same day, and at the same party, the birth of Penguin, the publisher. There was a Penguin motif at the birthday party and much pleasure and good conversation. And after, as I drove to a friend's place to overnight in peace and silence, there was time to reflect on the passage of time, on things taken for granted (publishing houses, long life) until they become fragile or threatened. As always, "in the moment" living is what we need, for sure. Enjoy the 75 year (or 25 year or 90 year...) marker, and try not to think too much about the number of years we do or do not have left.

Who knows? after all. So there's no point worrying about it, as I wrote last week. I am still working on cultivating a "so what?" looseness about eventualities. It sure has lightened my load, and added to the general happiness in my world.

And meantime I have begun to tweet. It's a wild world of haiku-like bursts, compressed thoughts, an anti-logorrhoea (sp?) tool! ( Prolixity is easier to spell...) A friend says it has led her to interesting information and people, quick connectedness with a large world.

On the subject of long and short: Longer distances beckon when I run in the morning these days. I'm loving it, but trying not to be too tempted into more kilometres. After all, I don't want to end up with knee or hip problems, and too much wear can sure lead there. On the other hand, what am I saving myself for?

It's the same balancing with money I think: Save it for a possibly long life? but who knows when it might get cut short? So why not enjoy the moment and worry about the money when the time comes, rather than ahead of time. it's an age-old issue and balancing act. The trick, the important thing, is not to get stressed about it. Just enjoy whatever decisions you make and live with them.

A friend said the other day 'Our job is to enjoy life, to be creative when we can, and otherwise to take good care of people and the earth and things generally.' It's not a bad basic code, don't you think?

Meantime, we need to eat, and the last few days have been fun: Had some amazing peach pie made by a friend up north, summer in a mouthful. I think it was a Crisco crust, but light and not soggy, the peaches perfect.

Last night, still on the yellow fruit theme, I used bright yellow tart plums to make a relish-chutney- salad. I would like to put it in the Burma book (saying clearly that I haven't eaten it there), for it's in the groove or style of the flavour palate, with minced shallots, some fish sauce and chiles, shallot oil used to heat and pop some mustard seed (a south Asian touch that gives a toasted depth) and... chopped mint or coriander leaves and salt. In any case it was great with grilled flat-iron steak, my new favorite cut. And on the grill went eggplants (long Asian ones) and shallots and garlic, for a mild, non-chile'd nam prik makeua. It was so smoky and flavorful, just way more than the sum of its parts.

Chile-garlic sauce, my favorite condiment from the Burma kitchen, with soaked dried red chiles, raw garlic, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and fish sauce, as always had an important place on the table. I've doubled the recipe for the book, for why make a small quantity when it's getting eaten so quickly??

This evening I made an improvised salad of cooked chopped sweet potato, all beautiful colour and tender texture, tossed with cold cooked rice and fresh pea tendrils (the fine kind) and lots of minced herbs whisked into an olive oil vinaigrette. The mint and basil were from the garden, punchy and fresh. I should have put it in a purple bowl, to set off the glamorous orange of the sweet potato. It was a great pairing with grilled fresh sausages (pork with fennel seed and chiles) from Sanagan's (and again more of that chile-garlic sauce, yum!).

My charcoal grilling is getting very confident, at last. I'm working to use as little charcoal as possible. In Southeast Asia people are so skilled and economical with charcoal. It is another of those learn-it-over-a-long-time life-skills that I am happy to work on.

Simple IS good!

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